It’s been a long time since I just sat down and wrote a long, wandering blog post in diary format, and yesterday I started craving it so much that I have been looking forward to it ever since. I’m perched at the kitchen island while I write this. A big pot of blackberry jam is cooking on the stove. 32 zucchini are sitting on the counter waiting to be transformed into pickles. (I love pickled zucchini spears, do you?) I have all the jars sterilized and waiting. Next up is a big batch of plum jam and then apple pie filling. All so simple and concrete, really–here’s the fruit, here’s the filling. Line the cupboards with good food. So much more concrete than writing and dreaming. But…that’s all I really want to do right now. Write and dream.
I know I’ve said this before, but it’s on my mind in particular during this long pandemic. I want to write books. Many books of all kinds, the ones that arrive at your doorstep covered in interesting fonts and colors, the kind you can’t wait to dive into because you know you’ll be in good hands and you’ll get to wander through someone else’s adventures and let your thoughts and heart drift. You know? It’s such luxury.
I am realizing I am part of a dying breed of gen-Xers, those strange beings who grew up without technology, whose parents worked and gave them the key to the house and we’d take the bus home and read books or talk on corded phones; teenagers who were happy just sitting alone with our thoughts, maybe hanging out in a parking lot somewhere together or making a snack and picking up a book instead of browsing through the internet or Instagram for distraction. Isn’t that weird? To be a dinosaur in the middle of a new land where the only other dinosaurs are about your age? It’s a funny subset of life.
So, about that writing that I love. I’ve realized recently that I likely just need to accept that my favorite thing to write about (and read about) is love. I don’t think there is a more enticing or basic storyline in the human experience than the one that forms through meeting and falling in love and figuring out all the parts that come with that.
Of course, as I reflect on this, I realize that it seems that love stories are typically ones that are all about the discovery and the start, and very few of them are about going the distance and raising the family, aging alongside each other, living beyond the first blush of romance and that wild rush of oh-my-God-does-he-love-me-too. And I’m interested in all of it. There isn’t anything more exciting to me than meeting an interesting human and having them be truthful. It is rare these days to find authentic, wildly real people. I treasure every single one of them, and I will be honest, I only stay with friends who are authentic with me, because I cannot stand anything that doesn’t ring true–friends, especially. I’ve been like this my whole life. If you’re not real, and if you don’t dive deep, then I don’t want to be with you. End of story. It has been a handicap of mine forever; I meet someone and dive right in, imagining all the real in there, and then…poof! It never arrives. And my heartbreak is palpable. And I move on, and I sit with the realization that people are complex, breakable, fragile things–they are so scared to show up and be themselves that they disappear within their armor of normalcy and live like that and I, in my own judgmental fashion, deem that a waste of time and move on. That’s why I have a lot of friends but only a handful of ones that I deeply respect and love. That’s just how I’m made, I guess. I doubt I’m so different than most of you in this regard. And living on an island where there are specific subsets of people–the squads of moms with Botox and fancy cars and cocktail parties and new clothes are some of my friends, but some of my heart dies a little every time I spend too much time with them, so, well, I have learned to limit my exposure. The pandemic has certainly made that easy. II realize that sounds horribly judgmental. I’m sorry about that. It’s just the truth. I know everyone has a complex inner world, but if they don’t reveal it, I don’t get to see it. And I so rarely go shopping; I wear the same things all the time; I drive used cars; I love old things; I like ideas and conversation more than oxygen; I love animals; I talk with trees and make friends with birds and love snuggling chickens; I would rather be dirty and tired and sore; I prefer listening to waves than the chatter of anything insincere; that’s me through and through. I don’t need much. I do love comfortable couches and crackling fires and hot tea and books that make me laugh and cry. More than anything I like interesting people who talk and share. I wonder why I have so much of the other trappings of life, and I sometimes want to shed it all.
If there has been a gift of this pandemic in the middle of all of the pain and sadness and chaos and isolation, it has been the big reveal that a few of you are embracing wholeheartedly….The one where you show up in your Instagram stories and Facebook posts and stop performing and start living. I love that. Oh, I love it. And so I find myself like a fisherwoman by the shore, casting my line and waiting for the goodness to bite. And when I catch it I am the happiest, fattest fisherwoman, so glad to have found you. That’s why I chose the photo above; it’s because there’s always a closed door waiting to be opened. The complexity of finding what’s inside? It’s what keeps me going.
For the past almost-13 years, I have been completely dedicated to parenting our kids. Every small moment has been generally dominated by how to help our kids live their best lives. It’s been a journey, for sure. From the small daily choices to the big, I’ve been a mom to the core. And it seems that every time I have surfaced for awhile to focus on something else, someone has come down with a cold or needed some extra support. And that’s where my focus has gone. I feel a bit as if I have been waiting for Aslan to arrive; searching for possible doorways to Narnia, all the while tending to runny noses and well-balanced meals. Now, suddenly, my kids are old enough to do many things by themselves. And without any crowds or pool days or school days, we’ve generally been more healthy than we’ve been in a long time. The kids sleep till they awake, and so do I. It’s a recipe for creative resurgence. They want me to go to my writing studio and write. They ask me to read my stories to them. And for the first time in a very long time, I am able to be absorbed in my own meanderings. This is a gift. I don’t ever want to take it for granted. And I want to use my time wisely, and produce work that I am proud of.
I have, quite frankly, been angry with myself for not doing more, being more, producing more. Not in the case of wishing for a different career, nothing like that; I have always known that I wanted to be a writer, and throughout my life I have always used my writing to make a living, but I have spent a good portion of my married and parenting life wishing that I was a highly productive person never swayed by the winds of circumstance. And yet that’s not fair, is it? Why do I expect more of myself than I expect of others? I have always held fast to the notion that I will write my opus when it is time. I think the time is now. Standing in front of it, seeing the door and discovering the lock is open and the inside is available to me to explore, that vast, endless cupboard filled with magic and possibility, is something I want to savor. I just need to put down the words, one by one by one. There aren’t any excuses now, just the weaving and the time, one foot in front of the other.
If I were to be completely honest, I would tell you that despite all the happiness in my life, all of the contented luxuries and love and support and good, I spend a large portion of my life in a state of distraction and dissatisfaction because I am not working on my own dreams. I feel an urgency that distracts me from everything. That awesome moment on the beach with my loved ones? I’m wishing I were writing. That Friday night watching a movie and eating pizza? I’m tired of watching other people doing interesting things; and I am wishing I were writing. That constant desire to go running? I’m hoping the idea will arrive when I curve round the bend and I will be able to piece together the first paragraph, step by step. Listening to music? I’m listening for the stories.
I learned to type in a keyboarding class my Sophomore year of high school, and I have been typing ever since. Running? I’m typing. Thinking? I’m typing. My fingers are busy typing all the time. I love words, every one of them, they delight me. But not as much as I love people and possibility and the fisherwoman’s solitary journey casting for truth… I want more of it every day, so much so that the mountain retreat with the silence and the wind hammering around me and the quiet one-room cabin with just a computer and my thoughts are like the most blissful most magical most amazing things I can imagine. Send me away for a few months and I think there are so many stories in here, I would write all my books in one go.
And the thing is, it’s not just butt in seat and hands on a keyboard. It’s thinking. It’s letting thoughts arrive and form, and it’s long, extended periods of silence, of which I have very little of these days. The composition process requires silence and solitude, and I rarely have either. But those strike me as poor, impoverished excuses for a lack of doing. And I’m just tired of them. Tired of the excuses and the emptiness of unfinished thoughts and expectations. I’m not sure why we live in such a big house with such big bills if all I really want is a garden, some basic homemade food, and time to think. I don’t need much. I never have. I’m an incredibly simple person that has chosen homesteading on an expensive island in an expensive home. That’s on my mind, too. Simplicity sings its own song to me these days as I consider all the ways I have distracted myself from my own dreams.
Is there something you’ve wanted to do your whole life? What is it? What’s held you back? How can you accomplish it, one small moment at a time?